overthinking the idiot box

April 10, 2006

Pilots Take Flight!

Ten Pilots That Just Might Crash and Burn
by M. Brianna Stallings

They're being brushed, shod, and trotted out on the track, with glossy eyes, big promises of success, and more than a little gossip. No, not those cloned horses — I'm talking about the latest spate of pilots for the 2006-2007 season.

Every year, television executives spend lots of time and money gussying up whole new breeds of series that may or may not even make it out of the gate. Now, I'm not a betting woman, but odds are pretty good that the following pilots simply will not have what it takes to keep this fickle America watching:

10. Him and Us (ABC)
: A comedy based on the life of Sir Elton John. Kim Cattrall stars as Freddie, the put-upon manager of British superstar Max Flash, a flamboyant, rhinestone-studded diva whose antics are just as outlandish off-stage as on. Max's posse joins in; hijinks ensue.
Why It Could Bomb
: That other diva, Kim Cattrall. She was brilliant on Sex and the City, but from what I understand, her ego caused a lot of problems. Off-camera drama could drown out the comedic flame. Plus, there's the off chance that it'll come off less funny and more pathetic than anything else.
Why It Might Not: It has a lot going for it. First, it's a barely fictionalized look at the life of a revered international singing sensation. Second, it's as star-studded behind the scenes as it is in front of the camera, with writers Cindy Chupack (Sex and the City) and Michael Edelstein (Desperate Housewives), and John's longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin all involved. And finally, it's guaranteed to be as kitschy as all get out.

9. Sky (aka Haskett's Chance) (NBC)
: Cary Elwes [Westley from THE PRINCESS BRIDE! Oh, Westley -Liz] stars as a corrupt politician named Mark Haskett, who is about to take office as Governor of North Carolina, but dies when someone sabotages his airplane. His heavenly caseworker gives him a second chance to set things right — by being reincarnated as a drug addict.
Why It Could Bomb
: Karmic retribution can indeed be a bitch... and so could sitting through this show if they turn this dramatic bastardization of My Name is Earl into an hour of condescending soul-searching Hallmark pap each week.
Why It Might Not
: The premise is just absurd enough to work, if they stick with developing a good storyline (the "who took down the plane?" mystery is a promising subplot) and leave the moralizing to holy men.

8. Love at Third Sight (NBC)
: NBC, in conjunction with BBC Worldwide, presents a new dating/reality series in which suitors, with the help of a hypnotist, get three chances to make first impressions on a date.
Seriously, if your dating life is so bad that you're calling in a hypnotist, you really shouldn't be doing so on national television.
Why It Could Bomb: Am I the only one who finds this not only a little creepy, but also a not-so-subtle rip-off of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Seriously, if your dating life is so bad that you're calling in a hypnotist, you really shouldn't be doing so on national television.
Why It Might Not
: Its novel idea could act as one more resuscitative breath into the gasping body of reality television.

7. Big Bang Theory (CBS)
: Two brilliant physicists meet a woman who shows them how little they know about real life.
Why It Could Bomb
: Too geeky to keep people watching.
Why It Might Not
: Geeky enough to keep people watching and wondering if romance might blossom for one of our two socially retarded geniuses. Plus, two of the actors who have already signed on have decent credentials: Jim Parsons (Judging Amy) and Iris Bahr (Curb Your Enthusiasm).

6. TIE: Men in Trees (ABC)/ Community Service (NBC)
: Men in Trees: Relationship coach and bestselling author Marin Frist (Anne Heche) is on her way to a speaking engagement in Alaska when she learns that her fiance has cheated on her. The wedding gets cancelled, and she gets snowed in, stuck in a small town full of available men. Community Service: After successful New York City real estate agent Will Shepard loses everything, he travels to a small Ohio town to find his one true love, Carly Phillips... who also happens to engaged to a local police officer. Will gets into an altercation with said officer and is sentenced to 500 hours of community service, a stranger in a strange infuriating land.
Why They Could Bomb: Men in Trees: For some reason this reminds me of a less interesting Northern Exposure. Combine that with the fact that Heche doesn't really have a reputation for comedy and this could come crashing down like an avalanche. Community Service: There's only so many times you can watch a loser screw up before you just stop caring. In the case of Will Shepard, it might not even be a full season. *By the way, does anyone else notice the remarkable similarities here? Two shows on completely different networks focused on one person whose life has fallen apart and gets stuck in a nowhere town with nothing left to do except overcome his/her hang-ups. One word: snore! Ok, back to the shows.*
Why They Might Not
: Men in Trees: Wealthy successful women with dreary sex lives could live vicariously through Marin Frist, watching each week as she plows through one burly lumberjack after another before settling on "the man of her dreams". Community Service: Floundering men could find comfort in seeing someone struggle. Conversely, successful men could pat themselves on the backs, comfortable in the knowledge that they will never be such losers themselves, further fostering the delusions of the great.

5. Day in the Life (ABC)
: Months and months of planning go into a wedding — a celebration that begins and ends in a one day. Danny and Alice are getting married, and just like any other wedding it will only take a single day, but here's the thing: that single day gets broken down into 22 individual episodes as all that precious planning starts to unravel.
"It's like 24 for weddings!"
Why It Could Bomb: A friend of mine said it best when told about this one: "It's like 24 for weddings!" Ladies and gentlemen, this does not sound funny; it sounds like either slow torture or a justification for avoiding marriage like the Plague.
Why It Might Not
: The writers of the films What Women Want and 13 Going on 30 are on board, and people seemed to like those just fine. Unlike me, the rest of the nation might take some sick delight in watching all the foibles that come with what is supposed to be a couple's "perfect day" — a disturbing thought in and of itself.

4. Julie Reno: Bounty Hunter (FOX)
: This comedy depicts Julie Reno (Erin Daniels), a single mother based in Reno, Nevada, who decides to make a buck off of her anger issues by becoming a bounty hunter. Oh yeah, and she's got competition in the form of fellow hunter T-Bone (Vincent Ventresca), who works for a bail bondsman named — I kid you not — John Wilkes Boothe.
Why It Could Bomb
: Thelma and Louise could probably wipe the floor with Julie Reno. Plus, I smell a hackneyed romantic subplot between Reno and cocksure male foil T-Bone.
Why It Might Not
: Could prove me wrong and actually usher in a whole new generation of feminist storylines on network TV; I'm not holding my breath.

3. Play Nice (CBS)
: A responsible sister (Sara Rue) and irresponsible brother (Timm Sharp) run the family toy factory together. Fred Willard and Swoosie Kurtz also star.
Why It Could Bomb
: A toy factory? Honestly, do I need to say anymore?
Why It Might Not
: Everybody Loves Raymond's Gary Halvorson has signed on to direct the pilot. He might be able to apply that same inexplicable TV voodoo he used on Raymond to keep this thing going.

This headshot got Arquette a lot of work during Johnny Depp's 21 Jump Street days.
2. In Case of Emergency (ABC)
: (From The Futon Critic) "It's the line on any medical form or job application that most of us take for granted: Who should we contact in case of emergency? What if you looked at that question and struggled to come up with one single person that you could contact if there was a real emergency? Today is a turning point for three high school buddies who find themselves in places they never would have expected, and learn that in one day they can start with no one to count on, but can finish being able to count on each other."
Why It Could Bomb
: An idea this flimsy could lose a lot of steam really fast.
Why It Might Not
: A premise this unique could turn this paper-thin pilot into a hit. However, the recent acquisition of wild card David Arquette could make or break this show. And our winner as "Most Likely Pilot To Crash and Burn"?

1. Adventures of Big Handsome Guy and His Little Friend (FOX)
(NOTE: I couldn't make up something this bad in my wildest nightmares.)

: Based on the short film written by and starring Jason Winer and Hayes MacArthur, The Adventures of Big Handsome Guy and His Little Friend focuses on the unlikely friendship between lucky-in-life jock Guy and his shy, 5'4" friend, Buddy. Buddy is used to everything going wrong for him and right for Guy until one night out, when he makes a surprising realization about himself. Winer and MacArthur will play the same roles they had in the short film, which is based on their real-life friendship.
Why It Could Bomb
: I'm going to overlook how sad it is that this is based on a real friendship. I'm also going to overlook the obnoxious tongue-in-cheek character names (Buddy? Guy? Har-dee-har-har). Much like Dennis Kucinich didn't stand a snowball's chance in Hades of winning the 2004 presidential election (if for no other reason than because no one could pronounce "Kucinich"), this show is guaranteed to flop. The reason? That damn name. Shallow reason yes, but look at what happened to Andy Richter Controls the Universe.
Why It Might Not
: Two possibilities: mandatory nationwide lobotomies, or the systematic destruction of every other network but FOX, leaving viewers with no other choice but to watch this.

There you have it — from the most likely to cross the finish line to most likely to collapse after the first lap — the potential flops for next season. Tune in again soon for the top 10 pilots set to soar to the heavens!

Discuss this article in the SMRT-TV forum or email the author.

Return to Season 2, Episode 14.